Virgin Media to get tough on illegal downloading

Virgin Media is throwing its weight behind the war on illegal music downloading with an initiative in which the company will send out warning letters to parents whose children use its broadband service.

The move is the result of a joint deal between Virgin Media and the record industry through the British Phonographic Industry, which represents the major record labels.

Virgin Media will send a warning to those customers whose accounts are being used to download or share music illegally. It marks the first public deal between an internet service provider and the record industry.

The idea is that the letters will end up in the hands of unsuspecting parents, who will then admonish their children for illegally downloading and sharing music files.

The BPI ultimately wants internet companies to introduce a "three strikes" process to first warn, and then disconnect the estimated 6.5m customers whose accounts are repeatedly misused.

Virgin Media is hoping to avoid threatening its 3.5m subscribers with disconnection, preferring instead to "educate" customers.

The letters will be accompanied by one from the BPI, which warns that persistent offenders could be disconnected or taken to court.

The campaign has received backing from the government. Shriti Vadera, the business minister, said: "This is a very welcome first step by Virgin and the BPI to educate consumers about unlawful file sharing, which damages our vibrant creative economy. We continue to urge ISPs and creative industries to find a comprehensive approach to the problem."

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